Formula 1: Are Jos Verstappen's comments a Max to Mercedes threat?

Jos Verstappen reportedly stated that Red Bull risk "being torn apart" if Christian Horner remains team principal of the Formula 1 team.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Formula 1
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Formula 1 / Qian Jun/MB Media/GettyImages

Red Bull Formula 1 team principal Christian Horner was recently cleared of wrongdoing by an investigation that took place within the organization following accusations brought against him by an anonymous employee.

To this day, the accusations themselves are not fully clear to the public; much of this entire situation has centered around speculation, even as more and more information comes out (and we're not taking about the also-anonymous alleged "leak"). All things considered, very little has been reliably verified.

The 2024 season got underway on Saturday with the Bahrain Grand Prix, with Horner on the pit wall just as he was during qualifying following a meeting with FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem. As many expected, the race was dominated by Red Bull driver Max Verstappen, the three-time reigning world champion who has now won eight races in a row and 18 of the last 19.

It was relatively clear that the so-called "distraction" did not impact the team on race day. Verstappen's win marked only Red Bull's fourth 1-2 finish during his current 19-race stretch of dominance, as Sergio Perez finished in a distant second place.

However, it emerged after the race that his father, Jos, has stated that Red Bull risk "being torn apart" if Horner is left in power.

It had long been speculated that Jos had played a role in this situation coming to light last month, though we do want to make clear that this, just like everything else, is not confirmed.

That said, this claim only added further fuel to that speculation, especially amid previously existing speculation that the "leak" was being used as a power play by somebody who wanted the 20th year Red Bull man out.

While it's clear that Red Bull's performance hasn't suffered amid this ongoing controversy, could Jos' claim relate to his son's Formula 1 future?

Jos reportedly met with Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff on multiple occasions during Bahrain Grand Prix weekend. While the relationship had supposedly taken a turn for the worse a number of years ago, that did not appear to be the case over the weekend.

By now everybody knows that Mercedes have an open seat for the 2025 season, with Lewis Hamilton set to move to Ferrari to replace Carlos Sainz Jr. alongside Charles Leclerc. Wolff has stated -- and continues to state -- that everything is on the table when it comes to that seat.

Could Red Bull being "torn apart" mean Verstappen's departure to Mercedes?

On paper, the move doesn't seem to make a ton of sense. In fact, even off paper, it doesn't make a ton of sense.

Verstappen is signed at Red Bull through 2028, and while everybody knows that many contracts have various opt-out clauses, he is currently in the midst of Formula 1's most dominant stretch of all-time. His win total from the last two seasons trumps any driver's win total from any three-year span in Formula 1 history.

And while the new rules and regulations for 2026 also need to be considered, that would have technically been true before Verstappen made the decision to sign the lucrative five-year, $275 million extension through 2028.

Still, Red Bull may have gotten it right with the new ground effect rules from 2022, and Mercedes have at times looked like anywhere from the (distant) second to fifth best team on the grid, but there is no guarantee that that will be true again two years from now.

We all know what Mercedes achieved after the turbo hybrid era in 2014, just one year after Hamilton's own move to the team was met with serious doubt. And who knows what legendary engineer Adrian Newey's future holds?

Plus, as dominant as Red Bull have been, you can't help but wonder if Verstappen means more to them than they mean to him. Even last year, for as dominant as the RB19 was, Perez's average qualifying effort put him on the fifth row, and he only recorded three runner-up finishes during Verstappen's stretch of 17 wins in 18 races.

The driver still made the ultimate difference. So for Red Bull, losing Verstappen while also dealing with the ongoing possibility of finding a replacement for Perez could indeed bring significant turmoil.

And let's not forget that this is a driver who, by the time he was 24 years old, had 20 wins with non-constructor championship-winning teams.

Even Hamilton, the sport's all-time winningest driver, only has 17 wins that fit into that category (13 if you discount McLaren's 2007 cheating scandal).

At this point, it's nothing more than speculation (which also happens to be based on other speculation, mind you), and nobody even really knows if Jos and Max are in the same boat here.

It could just be, as stated, somewhat of a "power play", in which Red Bull are effectively being forced to choose between Horner or Verstappen. Let's not forget that keeping Horner could affect their future Ford deal from 2026, which could very well have Jos on edge as he considers his son's future.

Plus, signing Verstappen would probably result in Mercedes losing out on the opportunity to sign longtime junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli, which is said to be the whole reason why they were unable to offer Hamilton a longer contract in the first place. Hamilton's deal ran through 2024 with a driver option for 2025; his Ferrari deal runs through 2026.

Next. Formula 1 sees first-time scenario that will probably never happen again. Formula 1 sees first-time scenario that will probably never happen again. dark

On a much less serious note, the thought of Mercedes fans having to root for Ferrari (Hamilton) and Verstappen is something hilarious to consider, just as much as the thought of the Orange Army having to root for the Silver Arrows and archnemesis Wolff.